Can Ride to Work Day really make a difference?

Bikes at the Family Action Centre

Bikes at the Family Action Centre

Today is National Ride to Work Day in Australia. I sometimes wonder how much difference these types of events make, but there were definitely more bikes at work today. Very rarely have I seen more than one or two bikes at the Family Action Centre bike rack (which is also used by other University staff): today there were five!

Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of research about the impact of events like Ride to Work Day. It does appear to attract a wide range of participants[1] and some Australian research suggests that the day does have an impact. In a study of almost 2000 participants in the Victorian 2004 Ride to Work Day, Rose & Marfurt[2] found that almost one in five (17%) of them rode to work for the first time on the day, and that over 80% of these first-timers said that the event had a positive impact on their willingness to ride to work. More significantly in a follow-up survey five months later, over one in four of the first-timers had ridden to work in the week of the survey.

Many of our common trips are based on habits. Sometime in the past, we decided that driving (or another form of travel) was the best way to get to the places we go to regularly. Now we don’t really think about it anymore – we just do what we always do. Our situation, public transport routes, or something else might have changed without us considering changing our travel habits. We drive to work, the shops, school or wherever, because that is what we have always done.

When I first moved to Lambton, I used to drive or catch a bus to work at the University (about 3.5 kms away). When my brother stayed with us, he started walking to Uni. I had simply presumed it was too far and hadn’t considered walking as a possibility. It was actually only about a 35 minute walk – quite a good source of exercise. Walking to work didn’t really become a habit, however, until I participated in a University program encouraging staff to do at least 10,000 steps a day. A walk to work ensured I reached the goal and after the 3 month program walking to work was well and truly a habit.

I started riding to work when a nasty section of the road was widened to include a bike lane and I felt much safer riding. Although Ride to Work Day wasn’t the catalyst for my change, my experience demonstrates how these types of events can encourage people to consider alternatives and to question their taken-for-granted mode of transport.

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Encouraging cycling
  2. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  3. Our love affair with the car
  4. The paradox of inconsequence
  5. Being more environmentally friendly in 2015
  6. Blue Men: Message to Humanity

References

  1. Piatkowski, D., et al., Measuring the Impacts of Bike-to-Work Day Events and Identifying Barriers to Increased Commuter Cycling. Journal of Urban Planning and Development, 2014: p. 04014034.
  2. Rose, G. and H. Marfurt, Travel behaviour change impacts of a major ride to work day event. Transportation Research, Part A – Policy and Practice, 2007. 41A(4): p. 351-64.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
This entry was posted in Environmental sustainability, Working with communities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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